Monday, April 8, 2019

The case of the Plant and the Parrot

Think of any Oro Valley homeowner living in a neighborhood that’s located in an area surrounded by a natural, untouched desert environment. Perhaps you are one of those homeowners. And consider further that someone shows up and announces that they are going to bulldoze that pristine desert surrounding your home. Given this scenario, you have to wonder what’s in it for the person who speaks at a council meeting, telling everyone that this is a good thing for the neighborhood. And that is the perfect lead-in to today’s article.

Today’s article is another installment in our series on the Town Centre PAD zoning amendment which, if approved, would allow 82 mass graded cluster homes on the Oracle Road Scenic Corridor. Today we will focus on the one Oro Valley resident who spoke in favor of the proposal during the March 6th council meeting.

Technically, two Oro Valley residents were in favor but one of those residents was Dave Perry, President of the Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce, whose opinions can hardly be considered unbiased.

That leaves just one “ordinary” Oro Valley resident who spoke in favor of the zoning amendment who didn’t have any skin in the game…or did she?

There’s an echo in the room
The speech she gave during the March 6th public hearing is below.  It was hard not to notice how many times she parroted talking points that we’ve heard over and over by Councilmember (and developer) Steve Solomon and Chamber President, Dave Perry.

We’ve highlighted the comments that are known talking points of Solomon and Perry. See if you can match the talking point to the author.

Teri Lamour’s Speech
“I’m a 20-year resident of Oro Valley, living north of the PAD that’s being discussed this evening. I’m here to speak in support of the proposed amendment to the development.

Every home and business was built on open land. Each one of us has impacted this land just by moving and/or building here. Hopefully, the impact has led to a cohesive, welcoming community. Every landowner has a right to develop their property. Modifications to entitlements happen due to ever-changing circumstances in and around our community.

The community I live in, Rams Canyon at La Reserve, was made possible by a modification to the northern end of the La Reserve PAD. There was construction. There was negative impact during it but it didn’t last forever and now we’ve got wonderful residents and neighbors.

Area 4 of the Oro Valley Town Center PAD is zoned residential and the modification being requested would bring the area closer to that of the surrounding residential areas – La Reserve PAD and the El Conquistador homes.

The landowner and applicant have shown great care in addressing neighboring homeowner concerns. Some have voiced concern over loss of open space and views. Each and every one of us are living on what used to be open spaces. None of us thought about that when we moved to this lovely area. All we saw were gorgeous views and a wonderful lifestyle. All of our home constructions have impacted those who came before us. There were many that probably stood in these chamber halls when OUR houses (Rams Canyon) were built. We should be welcoming potential neighbors instead of cutting ourselves off.

I want to remind everyone, Oro Valley was not incorporated as a Town in 1974 so that we could sit stagnant while communities around us grow and expand. We need residents in order to bring business to our town and to develop our economic impact. This will only help our community. It is my understanding that our Town is already at 90% build-out. We need continued smart, strategic growth in order to survive and thrive.

I feel the landowner and the applicant are making great modification requests and our town will be more vital as a result of it and not a win-lose situation.”

Councilmember Steve Solomon waters his “plant”
When Ms. Lamour finished her speech, Mayor Winfield called a 10 minute recess. The council members went out the door to the break room…all except Steve Solomon who walked out into the audience to “water his plant.” He made a beeline for this resident, thanked her profusely for giving her speech, and spoke with her for a few minutes before finally making his way to the break room to join the others.

Everyone who fills out a Blue Card at a council meeting has the right to discuss whatever they want within the three minute time frame. That said, you have to admit that Teri Lamour’s speech and the subsequent little tête-à-tête with Solomon looks suspicious. Both of them talking and smiling like they’d just pulled off a grand heist or something of that nature.

Solomon making this grand gesture of congratulating someone who spoke in support of this development was an insult to the homeowners who had justifiably argued against the negative impacts that this plan would have on traffic, scenic views, and property values.

Schadenfreude, extracted from the German language and now part of American vernacular, is defined as “pleasure derived by someone from another person's misfortune.” We can think of no better way to describe what we witnessed that evening.

UPDATE: At the March 6th council meeting, after the applicant’s presentation and the subsequent council discussion, the council voted to continue the item to the April 3rd meeting. At the April 3rd meeting, the applicant requested a continuance to give them more time to address the concerns that were raised at the March 6th council meeting.